Coach Kids to Correspond

Kids need help cultivating their personal correspondence. From thank-you cards to condolences, it’s never too early for youngsters to engage in written communication.

Why write thank-you notes?

You may have heard, “Do I have to?” when your child has struggled with thank-you notes. Yes, even in our era of instant messaging, we need to write thank-you notes because:

  • It’s appropriate to demonstrate appreciation.
  • It generates a healthy attitude of gratitude.
  • A note notifies the giver that the item or kindness was received.
  • The practice develops effective communications skills and builds relationships.
  • Writing a note can be rewarding and even fun.

Be prompt with personal correspondence. Consider setting a rule that your child can’t use a new gift until the thank-you note is in the mail. Have a system for tracking who gave each gift and which gifts have been acknowledged.

“Writing teaches children to slow down and take a minute,” explains Debra Nussbaum, Manners Matter columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer. People often save handwritten notes, she says. They can be very meaningful.

Make writing fun

Don’t approach the task as a chore. “Get creative and make it fun,” urges Sheryl Trower, etiquette consultant and president of The Etiquette School of Central Pennsylvania in Lititz, PA.

Trower suggests making correspondence into a special craft project for younger kids, with stickers or glitter. They can add a drawing or photo of themselves using their gifts, and they can choose the postage stamps. Older children can select stationery.

Read more tips for kids' correspondence on page 2.


What to say (or not)

Parents can empower a young correspondent with countless ways to give thanks, even if a gift is small or not to his specific taste. A child can choose his own favorite way of saying, “Your thoughtful gift certificate will help me shop for some of the clothes I’ve been eyeing,” or “I’ve been wanting a video game, and your nice check will contribute to my savings goal.”

In addition to a couple sentences about the particular gift, acknowledge the child’s relationship with the person she’s thanking. “See you in gym class” might be fitting for a classmate’s note. To an unfamiliar cousin a child might write, “It’s neat to remember I have a relative in Ohio.”

Kids’ repertoires also may need to include sympathy correspondence. In such cases, keep it simple and undramatic. For instance, write, “I’m sorry about your grandpa. I have good memories of seeing him with you.”

Although parents may offer help with concepts and word choice, children should use familiar vocabulary and not try to sound like somebody else.

Draft the note

Sometimes it’s best for a child to write a draft of the note on scratch paper and write it on nice paper when he’s satisfied with the wording. Sometimes a re-write is necessary. Don’t let this discourage you or the child you’re coaching. Even professional writers often re-write their work multiple times.

Resist the temptation to use a template. You can read some sample notes online for ideas, but no two notes should be identical. A note that lacks the sender’s voice and personalized comments may leave a bad impression on the reader.

Set the tone that correspondence is not a burden; it’s an opportunity for your child to reflect on an important relationship in her life and create a thoughtful message. 

Ann L. Rappoport is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

Categories: Education